Bernadine Healy gets it wrong

17 Apr

Following Bernadine Healy’s April 14th post in USNews, Orac dealt her a dollop of respectful insolence which is a very good read, as are the comments.

However, I wanted to do a kind of accounting on Healy’s post, to see just how firm a grasp on the whole situation she has. So, lets start.

McCarthy and Carrey and two colleagues from the autism advocacy group she founded, Generation Rescue…

Oops. Sentence two, first error. McCarthy did not found Generation Rescue, JB and Lisa Handley did.

…and parents are raising legitimate concerns, yet unanswered…

I have been on the front line of this debate for the last six years. Once upon a time the question ‘do vaccines cause autism’ _was_ a legitimate one to ask. But that question has been asked and answered. Since about 2003/4 there have been _no_ legitimate concerns raised by parents or anyone else. The MMR question has turned out to be both a con and the result of bad science. The thiomersal question is just a defunct hypothesis, given that thiomersal was largely removed from vaccines by 2002 and yet autism rates continue to climb. Despite desperate attempts to rebrand the autism/vaccine question (aka when you know you’re right and yet turn out to be wrong, know you’re right with something else) into questions about greening vaccines when simple searching reveals that newborns contain most vaccine ingredients either naturally or via breast feeding. Or the hellacious vaccine schedule despite the fact that the UK for example has a higher rate of autism (1 in 100 vs 1 in 150) but a lower amount of vaccinations.

This controversy might be resolved if we can focus on a few big questions, with an open mind…

Mistake number three. There is no controversy. In the field of _science_ asking the _scientific question_ ‘do vaccines cause autism’, there is no controversy at all. What there is is a very good and well executed media campaign to manufacture one. However, the facts remain the facts – no vaccine, no vaccine ingredient and no vaccine schedule either solely or together cause autism. There is simply no sound science to support that set of ideas. If there is a controversy it is how the media continue to let people stoke the fire of this idea.

Influenza vaccine, mandated here starting at age 6 months…

Mistake number four. As far as I can tell, the flu vaccine is not mandatory in the US. Certainly this article covering the 2008/09 flu season states:

It will not be mandatory for every child to have the flu shot…


…a study from Canada last year found that delaying the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccination just a few months decreased by 50 percent the risk that a child develops asthma…

Mistake number five. This has absolutely no bearing an autism. The article is entitled ‘The Vaccines-Autism War: Détente Needed’. Not ‘vaccines, asthma, maybe other stuff as and when I think of it-autism war’. As such this strawman argument has nothing to do with autism.

(Side note: Healy says we should read two doctors thoughts on the pros and cons of a flexible vaccine schedule. It maybe will come as no surprise that the doctor who thinks the US needs a flexible vaccine schedule is ‘Vice chair, Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine’ of the AAP).

The goal is to get all kids appropriately vaccinated…

Mistake number six. The organisation Healy references at least twice, Generation Rescue, have this on the front page of their Facebook Group

“I found that the whole vaccine business was indeed a gigantic hoax…” –Dr Kalokerinos MD June 1995

“There are significant risks associated with every immunization and numerous contraindications that may make it dangerous for the shots to be given to your child…” — –Dr. Robert Mendelsohn MD, pediatrician

Onward again.

…Hannah Poling, for example, who has an underlying mitochondrial disorder and developed a sudden and dramatic case of regressive autism after receiving nine immunizations, later determined to be the precipitating factor…

Mistake number seven. Nowhere, repeat, nowhere has it been published that Hannah Poling’s vaccines were the ‘precipitating factor’ in her autism. If anyone thinks that it has been published I would like a link to that document. I’ve been asking for this for over a year now and no one has ever managed to show me where this is stated.

What _has_ been said is that following her vaccines hannah showed ‘features of autism’. As I have said numerous times, ‘features’ of autism is not interchangeable with autism. If it was, then the medical report co written by four doctors including Hannah Polings father Jon Poling would have simply said ‘autism’. In fact, this medical case study listed a number of symptoms (over 20) of which only three were found on the DSM (IV) (the official diagnosis for autism). She may well have been autistic and she was determined to have been vaccine damaged but that does not automatically mean one caused the other and in fact by the lack of any of the many other symptoms needed to reach a diagnosis of autism, we can see that they were not.

Amd again, onward:

Other children may have a genetic predisposition to autism, a pre-existing neurological condition worsened by vaccines, or an immune system that is sent into overdrive by too many vaccines, and thus they might deserve special care. This approach challenges the notion that every child must be vaccinated for every pathogen on the government’s schedule with almost no exception…

Not exactly any mistake here but this is very misleading. Its well know _already_ that some kids _do_ have conditions that are not amenable to vaccines. Less than 30 seconds of searching the CDC website led me to the appropriate information. I think it is incredibly disingenuous and very ignorant of Healy to comment in the manner she has.

Onward we trudge through the morass.

Paul Offit, an infectious-disease expert from the University of Pennsylvania who has been a frequent spokesman and adviser on vaccine policy (and by his admission has become wealthy by developing the now mandated rotavirus vaccine)

Mistake number eight. The Rotavirus vaccine has never been mandated anywhere that I can see.

So this is Dr Bernadine Healy, a scientist with 125 records in PubMed. Impressive until you realise that, just like this, they are 125 blog entries from US News. That means we can say that on average Healy has got 1,000 mistakes into PubMed.

Good going Bernadine.

11 Responses to “Bernadine Healy gets it wrong”

  1. Joseph April 17, 2009 at 01:22 #

    The obligatory Paul Offit mention and the reference to the recent GR “study” on vaccination and child mortality suggest that Bernadine Healy is currently working closely with Generation Rescue and/or other organized anti-vaxers.

  2. lisanavi April 17, 2009 at 01:43 #

    you are correct. Flu vaccine = not required in US, just recommended. Hell, no vaccines are ‘required’ in the US. They’re required for entrance into licensed day care centers and schools unless a waiver is signed by a doctor. Without a doctor’s waiver, they need to sign something saying they don’t agree with it on principle. I think the latter depends on the state though. Some may require there to be a religious reason for being against. Michigan simply requires a principle. I did use the so called debate though one time to give me some time to straighten out whether or not my son really needed a vaccine his daycare said he did (I was sure he was up to date, but the state registry said he wasn’t – the data is stored electronically and I had to find out whether or not his ped office had reported it or if he really needed it)

    That said, the current schedule is fairly flexible, usually giving ranges of months when children can receive vaccines. It’s just usually people like to get it all taken care of in one go. My son’s dr actually one time, when he had low stock on the MMR, suggested we get that one the next time we’re in and so we got it a few weeks later than his DTAP.

    Also, due to health privacy regulations, public schools really only have to ask the parent to sign a piece of paper saying their child is up to date and healthy and to note any health concerns the school needs to know about. I no longer send a list of vaccines, or that sheet with information from her yearly checkup to my daughter’s school. Not all schools have caught up with the times though…

  3. johnfryer April 17, 2009 at 11:31 #

    Bernadine Healy

    Yes, she did get it wrong.

    Made director of top health organisation decades ago.

    Faced up to the “nerks” (mostly men of course) in there and got pushed out.

    Her path has been slowly downward ever since.

    That is the path for any completely honest person in our modern world.

    So Sad and what a waste of talent and common sense.

    Interesting that most ex members of these government establishments have different tales to tell when retired.

    I seem to remember an ex head of the health establishment in UK wrote a huge tome on vaccine harm and actually described cot death or SIDS to a T in his book before we ever had it as a problem.

    Death after vaccines was known about more than 100 years ago.

    Why can’t we be honest about it today?

    Going back to Bernadine. She does seem like Saint Paul to have seen the light on vaccines late in her life but at least she does have an open mind now.

    And despite what we say she is a force to be reckoned with and yes an ally for common sense.

    I hope we all want to find the true cause of autism and for me nothing must be ruled out until we hammer the causes and if common sense is right the answer cannot be just one thing or surely we would know by now?

    Her recent blog attracted a high quality of replies and overwhelmingly point to the need to keep vaccines in the frame as a causal factor.

  4. johnfryer April 17, 2009 at 11:43 #

    Hi Kev

    How do you place living next to an indutrial site such as a power station emitting toxic fumes?

    How do you rate GMO food used in England and USA and its correlation to autism?

    How do you rate EM radiation as a factor?

    How do you rate Nuclear Dumping as a factor?

    How do you rate aspartame as a cause?

    How do you rate lack of vital vitamins in the mums diet?

    There are many factors working together to cause autism.

    Many chemical and biological reasons are admitted.

    To admit vaccines as the harm would not be allowed even if true.

    This is the dilemma that we as the people need to ask of the establishment.

    And finally what is autism? It is a nefarious thing of so many different signs that it is not clear to me who has actually got this condition.

    If we lok at CDC figures (for USA only) it can go down to less than a quarter of a million but if you expand the diagnosis it can exceed 5 million for the USA.

    The quote in one group was 1.7 million for people in the USA of which most are children.

    I did think I saw a firm CDC 2009 figure but can’t locate this.

  5. Kev April 17, 2009 at 17:10 #

    Faced up to the “nerks” (mostly men of course) in there and got pushed out.

    Her path has been slowly downward ever since.

    That is the path for any completely honest person in our modern world.

    Is this the same Bernadine Healy who agreed with Fetal embryo research until she got into the post and then suddenly didn’t when Bush told her not to? Hardly ‘facing up’ is it?

    And is this the same ‘completely honest’ person who was a member of TASSC who

    the primary focus of TASSC was an attempt to discredit research on Environmental Tobacco Smoke [passive smoking] as a long-term cause of increased cancer and heart problem rates in the community—especially among office workers and children living with smoking parents.

    TASSC funders included: 3M
    Dow Chemical
    General Motors
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    Lorillard Tobacco
    Louisiana Chemical Association
    National Pest Control Association
    Occidental Petroleum
    Philip Morris
    Procter & Gamble
    Santa Fe Pacific Gold
    W.R. Grace

    Is that completely honest John?

  6. Sullivan April 17, 2009 at 23:02 #


    some of those sponsors make more sense when you consider that TAASC was also active in claiming that global warming was impossible.

    TAASC at least asked for money from Tobacco Company Brown and Williamson.

    Click to access tassc-letter-showing-bernadine-healy-on-the-letterhead.pdf

    the letter is interesting in that it shows how little TAASC did in proposals for funding.

    Also Dr. Healy is clearly listed as a member of TAASC in the letterhead.

  7. Matt April 18, 2009 at 05:16 #

    From: How tobacco friendly science escapes scrutiny in the courtroom, Friedman, Daynard, and Banthin, American Journal of Public Health, July 2005, Vol. 95, No. 51, p. 3

    “Phillip Morris, with the aid of public relations firms and its outside counsel, created a group in 1993 called The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), whose stated mission was to advocate the use of ‘sound science’ in public policy decision making. The group’s true purpose, however, was to influence perception in the scientific and regulatory arenas on the subject of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in such a way as to imply that cigarette smoke is not a harmful carcinogen, as the Environmental Protection Agency has designed in 1992.”

    TASSC was also a member of Exxon Mobile’s Global Climate Science Team. Other membersd include the American Petroleum Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, the Southern Company, Chevron Corp., and the SEPP.

  8. Roger April 19, 2009 at 04:20 #

    It really is a shame that the mitochondrial disease angle has been so distorted by the anti-vaxers, and so easily brushed aside by the neurodiversity people.One might well get the impression that certain bloggers are brushing mitochondrial autism aside,because it is not “our kind of autism”.(Read idiopathic.)And yes,I am aware of the debate that is going on in some areas of medicine,and academia,as to if autism caused by mitochondrial disease should be considered separately,but for now it is not.

    There is real research going on in mitochondrial autism,and for some of us who already have a diagnosis of autism,but also have a whole host of other serious medical problems,and physical developmental problems,that doctors were never been able to explain;mitochondrial disease has finally given us an answer.The link between autism and mitochondrial disease,was first suggested about 2000. ,but really wasn’t known to be as common as it is,until last year’s Cleveland Clinic study came out.
    Which to me,was far a more important story than Hannah Poling,but never got the objective media coverage it deserved.

    Rather than pouncing on it,and using it as “proof” that vaccines cause autism,the response to this study should have been “I wonder how many other autistics,ADULTS AND CHILDREN,also have undiagnosed mitochondrial disease.?”

    Talk about getting it wrong.

    If Hannah Poling did not,in fact,receive a complete evaluation for autism,this is shameful,and represents sloppy work on the part of all involved,but this does not negate the link between mitochondrial disease and autism.If not vaccines,those with mitochondrial autism,can often point to a specific event,in infancy,or early childhood,that clearly marked the start of their autism.In my case,it began after an acute case of bacterial meningitis,and pneumonia,that I had at five months old.Severe infection,can have the same effect on a susceptible child as vaccines.My mother always told me this was when my autism began,and when I learned about mito,I found out why.

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  1. VFV Blog » Blog Archive » News from the week of April 12 - April 18, 2009

    […] Leitch from Left Brain Right Brain scrutinizes Healy’s piece in his post, pointing out her inaccuracies. His main contention is Healy’s claim, “‘This […]

  2. Bernadine Healy gets it wrong | Left Brain Right Brain – International Badass Activists - August 26, 2020

    […] Source: Bernadine Healy gets it wrong | Left Brain Right Brain […]

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